Preview: Taranaki v Otago
Friday, August 28, 2015 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
Form: Neither team has won yet this year. That's of more immediate consequence to Taranaki as the defending ITM Cup champions. If they are to be a force in this year's edition they need to get on the board and promptly. Having lost to two of the usual heavyweights, Wellington (14-19) and Auckland (24-30) Taranaki could still recover, although Wellington are playing in the lower Championship this year.
Otago, by comparison, lost to Canterbury (24-38) in the first round and then fell, at home, to Hawk's Bay (22-39) last week.
Wins: Taranaki 26, Otago 29, Drawn 2
Last match: Taranaki 25 Otago 15, Dunedin, 2010
Squad Update: After being named at fullback Beauden Barrett has moved to first five-eighths as a result of a hip injury suffered by Marty McKenzie at training during the week. It will be an unusual experience for Barrett, he hasn't started a game since July 4 and it's been more than two years since has played on Yarrow Stadium.
Prop Angus Taavao wasn't considered due to concussion suffered last week. Ryan Cocker has replaced him while Blade Thomson will feature at lock again with Berny Hall back from injury to play on the flank. Kurt Baker is at fullback after Barrett had originally been named at fullback after captain James Marshall broke a toe and was ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Otago have welcomed lock Tom Franklin back after he was out for three months with an elbow injury suffered during the Highlanders successful Investec Super Rugby campaign. In order to place him Josh Dickson has moved to blindside flanker. Making a start on the openside flank is Theo Commissaris as James Lentjes is still suffering the effects of concussion.
Charlie O'Connell will start at No.8 while halfback Josh Renton will make his first appearance of the year having been out with a sprained ankle.
At centre Jayden Spence is back after recovering from a sprained ankle. That has seen Matt Faddes shift to the wing.
Taranaki: 1.Mitchell Graham, 2.Sione Lea, 3.Ryan Cocker, 4.Mitchell Brown, 5.Blade Thomson, 6.Mitchell Crosswell, 7.Berny Hall, 8.Iopu Iopu-Aso, 9.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Jackson Ormond, 12.Charlie Ngatai, 13.Seta Tamanivalu, 14.Codey Rei, 15.Kurt Baker.
Reserves: 16.Caleb Mawson, 17.Reuben O'Neill, 18.Jared Proffit, 19.Riki Hoeata, 20.Toa Halafihi, 21.Kylem O'Donnell, 22.Sean Wainui, 23.Jackson Ormond.
Otago: 1.Craig Millar, 2.Liam Coltman (captain), 3.Hisa Sasagi, 4.Blair Tweed, 5.Tom Franklin, 6.Josh Dickson, 7.Theo Commissaris, 8.Charlie O'Connell, 9.Josh Renton, 10.Fletcher Smith, 11.Jack Wilson, 12.Teihorangi Walden, 13.Jayden Spence, 14.Matt Faddes, 15.Peter Breen.
Reserves: 16.Sam Anderson-Heath, 17.Donald Brighouse, 18.Aki Seiuli, 19.Mikele Mafi, 20.Naulia Dawai, 21.Kaide Whiting, 22.Michael Collins, 23.Tony Ensor.
Key Players: Clearly Barrett will be closely watched for Taranaki and not only for his generalship of the side, but also for his goal-kicking. But if he is able to blend in with his team-mates the likes of mid-fielders Charlie Ngatai and Seta Tamanivalu could cut loose against an Otago team lacking comparative stars.
Otago's pack will be looking to take on the Taranaki combination to ensure their backs are given enough ball to fully test the home defences. It is a tall order and there will be no margin of error for the Otago combination.
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